White House slams Iran’s Zarif for honoring Hezbollah’s Mughniyeh

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration slammed the Iranian foreign minister for honoring a slain Hezbollah operations leader.

“The United States condemns the decision taken by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Khonsari to place a wreath at the grave of Imad Mughniyeh, a former leader of Lebanese Hezbollah responsible for heinous acts of terrorism that killed hundreds of innocent people, including Americans,” Caitlin Hayden, the White House National Security Council spokeswoman, said in a statement Tuesday, a day after Zarif visited Mughniyeh’s grave in Beirut.

The condemnation comes as the United States joins other major powers in launching talks with Iran aimed at keeping it from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Zarif, seen as a relative moderate, leads the Iranian side in the talks.

“The inhumane violence that Mughniyeh perpetrated — and that Lebanese Hezbollah continues to perpetrate in the region with Iran’s financial and material support — has had profoundly destabilizing and deadly effects for Lebanon and the region,” Hayden said. “The decision to commemorate an individual who has participated in such vicious acts, and whose organization continues to actively support terrorism worldwide, sends the wrong message and will only exacerbate tensions in the region.”

Mughniyeh is believed to be behind the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut that together killed 268 Americans and scores of others, as well as attacks in the 1990s on the Israeli Embassy and the AMIA Jewish  center in Buenos Aires that together killed 114.

A car bomb killed Mughniyeh in Damascus in 2008. No one has claimed responsibility for the killing, although Hezbollah blames Israel.

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